How do great leaders boost their organistion’s energy and ignite high performance?
That is the tantalising subject of a new book* by Henley Business School Professor Bernd Vogel and his colleague Professor Heike Bruch.
Most leaders and leadership teams have experienced the ebb and flow of different states of energy in their organistions, says Vogel. “This intangible but very powerful energy lies at the core of companies’ performance. We call the phenomenon “organisational energy” and define it as the extent to which an organisation (or division or team) has mobilised its emotional, cognitive, and behavioural potential to pursue its goals.”
However, Vogel explains that few people realise that how an organisation manages its energy can lead to either a wellspring of corporate vitality or the destruction of the company’s very core. “Leaders who learn to boost and leverage the productive energy of their organisations can inspire their workforce around common goals — while those who do not pay specific attention to these human forces may drive their organisation into complacency, resignation, burnout, or corrosion,” he says.
In their book, Vogel and Bruch show executives practical strategies and tools to help shift their companies, business unit, or teams into high, positive energy. “It’s a state in which an organisation is emotionally engaged, mentally alert, and working productively toward critical goals,” Vogel explains.
Based on their research and consulting, and supported by various company examples, Vogel and Bruch outline six key leadership tasks to measure, boost, and sustain the energy of a company. The energy matrix - The states of energy in your organisation.
“To actively manage energy, executives need to understand the four different states of organisational energy - productive energy, comfortable energy, resigned inertia, and corrosive energy - and identify the extent to which they dominate their organisation,” says Vogel. A key part of this process is the Organisational Energy Questionnaire (OEQ), a measurement tool that guides leaders through a self-assessment for their company’s energy. Mobilising your organisation’s energy - Escaping the complacency trap:
Vogel describes two leadership strategies: “We call them “Slaying the Dragon” and “Winning the Princess” — and leaders can use them to energise their organisations. Slaying the Dragon,” he says, “focuses the company on solving or overcoming an existential external threat. With Winning the Princess, productive energy can be particularly high if companies are pursuing a special opportunity.” Rebuilding positive energy - Escaping the corrosion trap:
Another particular problem found by Vogel and Bruch in their research is that “once companies develop corrosion, they suffer from anger and fury, destructive internal conflicts, and people seeking opportunities only to harm others internally.” Their book shows tools to transfer corrosive energy back into productive energy. Focusing your organisation’s energy - Escaping the acceleration trap:
“When a company is highly energetic, there is a strong temptation to start too many activities simultaneously, potentially ending in organisational exhaustion and, ultimately, to burnout,” warns Vogel. “Companies need to overcome acceleration; we show them how and how to keep it in check.” Sustaining energy to rise above number one:
Vogel reminds us that even “highly energetic and successful companies have one challenge: not to fall back into complacency, resignation, burnout, or corrosion.” Sustaining energy shows how leaders instill a proactive sense of urgency at all levels in the organisation, he notes, “for a healthy way to maintain high levels of activity, alertness, and emotional involvement.” Energising leaders - A personal perspective:
It’s also tough at the top, says Vogel. “Boosting and sustaining energy of their people asks more than the usual from leaders and leadership teams. It requires the courage to step back for their managers and employees - and to help them lead and create the next organisational success.” Professor Bernd Vogel will be visiting South Africa in mid-March to lecture students on the MBA Programme of Henley Business School South Africa in Johannesburg; he will also be consulting for a number of key corporate clients and will return to the country later in the year.
*FULLY CHARGED: How Great Leaders Boost Their Organization’s Energy and Ignite High Performance, by Heike Bruch & Bernd Vogel will be published this month – March 2011 – by Harvard Business Review Press.